Your interviews are the gateway to the next stage of your career, so if you want to succeed you’ll need to take preparation seriously. Interview technique is something you can work on and improve. The key is therefore practice, practice and more practice!
In this guide will go through three sections: initial preparation, interview answers, and on the day
Understanding the company
How well do you know the company that you’re interviewing for? Check their website, financial sources, annual reports, news and media for information on their culture and current events. If possible, visit the company stores or offices. Take note of the language used in the job description or on the company’s website. This could be useful in understanding the culture, and later in preparing your answers.
Understanding the role
Collect all of the information you have on the job so far. What it involves, what the salary is (or what you’re looking for), who you might be working with. If there was a personal contact on the job advert, see if they have a profile on the company website. Every piece of information could help strengthen your answers during the interview.
Most interviews you attend will follow a similar format. In general, there are two types of question you’ll be asked:
What you know: these questions will draw on your knowledge and experience. They could include work experience, education, training, goals, character, personal qualities, the job that you’re seeking, the company, and the knowledge required to perform the job.
Problem and solution: this is where you’ll have to think on your feet. Given a scenario, you will identify what you would do. The question may focus on how you would handle a hypothetical situation or a situation that you’ve handled in the past.
We’ll talk about how best to answer these in the next section. But understanding the two types of question might make your preparation easier.
People prepare for job interview questions in different ways. They may write specific answers to as many specific questions as possible and memorise the answers. However, we recommend you think about broad categories of questions, and look to adjust you answer based on the situation.
For example, you could categorise questions into ‘general experience’. This will involve your current and past jobs, your responsibilities, and the skills you demonstrated. By reviewing all of this, you will be prepared for a number of distinctively phrased questions. For example, ‘what are your daily duties?’ and also, ‘how does your experience qualify you for the job?’.
Another category could be ‘personal profile’, where you assess your own skills, your strengths and your weaknesses. Or perhaps ‘motivation and future goals’. For each category, think about evidence you could bring up to justify your answers. If the interviewer springs a question like ‘Give an example of when have you dealt with a difficult customer’, you won’t be tripped up.
Tips to success
Be as specific as possible. Use evidence like: ‘I’m excellent in dealing with difficult customers, which was shown when I stepped in to resolve an issue with another colleague.’
Use wording from the job description. So if the job requires someone to supervise, use the word ‘supervise’ and not ‘manage’ when talking about your experience.
Prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer. This is a trap for the unwary who haven’t thought about intelligent questions to ask.
Avoid limiting words such as ‘only’ or ‘just’. For example, I ‘only’ supervise five employees.
Use verbs to you advantage. I ‘accomplished’, ‘achieved’, ‘organised’, ‘resolved’ etc.
Here is a list of potential interview questions. Which category would you put them in? Can you think of evidence to justify your answers?
Hopefully by now you should be ready for the day of the interview. Don’t forget the following checklist of things to do:
Addendum – “I’m failing all my interviews”
If you keep getting to the interview stage but not making the cut for the job, you may start wondering if you’re doing something wrong.
If that is the case, we advise you start reviewing your interviews and look for areas to improve. When you get back from an interview, consider doing the following:
Write down the questions you were asked.
If after several interviews you identify consistent negative comments, then you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing wrong and can work on improving on these.
You should also consider increasing the number of practice interviews you do. If you have somebody to help you, we advise you have at least three practice interviews. You’ll be able to use feedback to correct mistakes, strengthen weaknesses, and build upon strengths.